Eduardo Sanchez is best known as the writer/director of the late 90’s phenomenon The Blair Witch Project but, for my money, it’s his film Lovely Molly that is his masterpiece…and one of the best horror movies of the last decade. For whatever reason however, this film was unheralded upon its release, remains criminally underseen by horror enthusiasts, and receives mixed reviews by those who have seen it. It’s not an easy film to watch by any means, both because of the harrowing subject matter and the ambiguity of it, which forces the viewer to REALLY pay attention and do a little dot-connecting to fully appreciate the story. Personally, I like some ambiguity in my horror films. Too much exposition, too much backstory, ruins any sense of mystery in a horror film. The ambiguous nature of this story might have been its downfall among those who are used to being spoonfed their storylines and having everything neatly tied up at the end. Hell, I love this movie and even I had to watch it 2 or 3 times before I fully comprehended everything (or rather came to my own conclusions). Anyway, here are my 5 favorite things about this great movie:
1: The Lead Actress
This was Gretchen Lodge‘s first film role and I still haven’t seen her in anything else….and that’s a damn shame because she is outstanding in this movie!! The film is about her character Molly first and foremost and she carries the movie. Everything is told mostly from her perspective. She starts the film as a happy newlywed, then slowly runs the emotional gamut from being cautiously afraid to frantic, terrified, traumatized, inconsolable, sultry, suicidal, catatonic, then outright insane. It’s a highly emotional part and complex in a lot of ways.
2: The House
Most of the movie takes place inside of one of the creepiest houses I’ve ever seen. It’s the house Molly grew up in and the one she moves back into after her marriage. It’s one of those old, vine-entangled country houses made of brick with narrow, badly lit hallways and an unfinished basement that looks like it’s just begging to be filled with corpses! The outside of it looks exactly like the house on the cover of Black Sabbath’s first album. Not a house I would personally choose to live in! It’s a perfect house for this movie though. Creaking (and slamming!) doors, moving shadows, and rattling windows all play a big part in the atmosphere of this movie, and the atmosphere is thick! Later in the movie when the violence starts, the basement is where most of the carnage happens. It’s a basement made for carnage if ever I saw one.
3: The Horse Imagery
Throughout the movie, we see images of horses all over the place. Molly’s dead father (who was a shitty human being, sexually assaulting Molly and her sister when they were children) bred horses and may have raced them at one time, so photos of horses are everywhere. Molly comes upon a strange shrine in the cellar with an engraved picture of a 2-headed horse on it. At one point, Molly flips through a family album and there are pictures of horses there too. Molly hears the clopping of horse hooves and the breathing of a horse before she’s assaulted by an “unseen force”. In the last shot we see of Molly, she’s slowly walking outside to her backyard to embrace a kind of “horse” (trying not to get too spoiler-y). Molly, a recovering addict, backslides into addiction when things get too terrifying for her (or, it could be she’s being forced back into addiction). Her drug of choice? Heroin (or “horse”). By the movie’s midpoint, the horse imagery becomes very sinister and takes on implications of what Molly’s traumatizing childhood was like.
4: The POV shots
In The Blair Witch Project, the whole film was “found footage” from the point of view of whoever was holding the camera at the time, but in Lovely Molly, Sanchez opts to make only certain aspects of the film POV shots. Aside from the wedding footage at the start of the movie, these are from Molly’s point of view as she records her meanderings around the house and the grounds. These shots always take place when something eerie is happening to Molly or when Molly is discovering something integral to the plot. Often, she is singing to herself while recording these shots (what else but the song “Lovely Molly”?), which adds a touch of eerie detachment to the scene. Is she fully aware of what she’s seeing and discovering or is there an entity guiding her, showing her what it wants her to see?
5: The Ambiguity
Like I mentioned before, there is a strong element of ambiguity to Lovely Molly that makes the whole movie interpretable in different ways. Is it a movie about possession, mental illness…..or perhaps both? Molly and her husband move into the house she grew up in, which is also where the childhood traumas involving her father took place. Did this set off a chain reaction of events and memories that led to her using drugs again and thus causing her mental breakdown? Or, as Molly insists, is her father alive again….taking form as a kind of horse demon that no one else can see…traumatizing her all over again…waiting to capture her body and soul once and for all? Is Molly responsible for the deaths that occur in the film, or does she have a guiding hand in the form of her father…..showing her the way…urging her to kill? I have my preferred interpretation, but it honestly could probably go either way.
If you haven’t seen Lovely Molly, I urge you to. But be aware that there are intense implications of addiction, mental illness, and sexual assault and how they may affect the mind of a person. Like I said….it’s not an easy or “fun” movie to watch, but to me, it’s Eduardo Sanchez‘s best movie.